Twitter 101: What Should I Tweet About? Understanding Why Personal Branding on Twitter Matters

Despite the fact that Twitter has apparently grown from 58 to 175 million users in less than a year, it is clear that some of those “users” are actually “bots” or even corporations who have several different accounts to serve their current and potential customers with.  Case in point: Dell alone has more than 30 Twitter accounts.  All it takes is an email address to register a new account, so it is not uncommon for even some individuals to have multiple usernames. 

This may explain why, outside the networking circles of those active in social media, there are many people who still do not even have nor see potential value in having a Twitter account.  I just did a random survey using the keyword “Omaha” in LinkedIn and surveyed the top ten people who showed up who were not my 1st degree connections, and only 2 of the 10 had Twitter usernames listed on their LinkedIn profile.  Not enough statistical data to prove a lot, but I do believe that, despite what the mass media says, Twitter is far from a “mainstream” tool used by a majority of professionals in the United States.

It doesn’t surprise me, then, when I use a tool like ManageFlitter to see who of my followers haven’t been active, I find many people who signed up and haven’t tweeted in months.  That’s why I still get questions from my network like this one:

I signed up to Twitter but never use it due to the fact that I really don’t know what to do or say.

I wanted to spend today’s post to take a step back and look at what should someone tweet about if they are just getting started on the micro-blogging platform.  I also hope it provides value to those of you who may have “burned out” or stopped seeing value in Twitter to give it another try or use it in a more compelling and meaningful way.

Twitter, like any social media site, can easily be perceived as merely a waste of time, so the first order on hand is determining what your objective is in joining social media sites like Twitter.  Facebook is easy to understand because that’s where your friends and family are.  LinkedIn is where your colleagues are.  But what if neither of those people are on Twitter?  This is likely the case for many.  In this case, what on earth should you be tweeting about?

Even if you don’t have an objective for being on Twitter, it is a powerful public platform that can be a consumer’s best friend in terms of finding deals or even potentially getting preferential treatment from customer service organizations.  But more importantly, you can start to create a public persona that goes beyond what your personal Facebook network might be interested in: your personal brand.

That’s right.  Twitter is an amazing way to build up your personal brand because it truly is a case of you are what you tweet.  Are you an expert in something?  Why not tweet about it?  Follow others who tweet about it.  Make lists of people who tweet about it to better view their contributions and provide your curated lists so that others can enjoy it.  Share things that you read about.  Comment on what other people are tweeting about it that interest you.  Engage in a professional discussion on Twitter just like you would at an industry convention.  Better yet, start your own #chat about your profession.

This has an important relationship with another compelling reason why every professional should be on Twitter: You could lose your job tomorrow.  I’ve been in a situation where my position was eliminated merely 14 weeks after I was hired.  And it could happen to you.  When you go through that experience, you realize that you need to create something that no one can take away from you: I came to the realization that that was my personal brand.

When you look at the world like I do, you begin to understand what the U.S. Department of Labor recently reported: “Among jobs started by 39- to 44-year-olds, 33 percent ended in less than a year and 68 percent ended in fewer than 5 years.”  Unfortunately, the analogy for most of our careers is like this revolving door: In one company one day, out again and back into another one tomorrow.  I wish it wasn’t this way, but the statistics prove that many of us are experiencing this in this day and age.

So, where does Twitter fit in?  It is a public platform who’s tweets are being archived by the Library of Congress.  It’s also where more searches are being performed on Twitter than on Yahoo or Bing.  Journalists like David Pogue from the New York Times wrote a book solely based on people’s responses to his questions on Twitter.   Companies pay upwards of several thousand dollars a month (if not more…) to have access to social media monitoring software from companies like Radian6 to be able to monitor what you are tweeting about.

In short, the world is watching you on Twitter.  So what better place to share your expertise with the world?

Sure, there are ways that LinkedIn and Facebook can help build your personal brand.  But the simplicity of the Twitter user interface displays your raw ideas and thoughts more transparently than any other platform.  And it’s all for public consumption.

So just as I said that blogging is the best way to build and showcase your personal brand, tweeting becomes the best way to have your personal brand be found based on the public and viral nature of the platform.

Now that you see the fundamental importance for every professional to be on Twitter, I recommend you start tweeting a combination of the following to help strengthen your personal brand:

  • Share links with what you read concerning your industry or profession
  • Comment on the current affairs or hot topics of your industry or profession
  • ReTweet either of the above from people that you follow
  • Let the world know if you are attending a professional event…and share the link!
  • Reach out to your industry peers, potential mentors, and thought leaders…you will be surprised how easy it is to communicate with and potentially develop relationships with people that you’ve never met on Twitter
  • Join a relevant #chat and participate
  • Ask questions related to your industry and see what your peers following you think

This is only a sample of the things you could be tweeting about, but maintaining a healthy flow of relevant tweets and following relevant people will ensure that you will be found, not only by the public but also by people who may be able to help you out on your professional journey.  All it takes is a tweet a day to start.

Twitter truly is the Field of Dreams: Tweet, and they will come.

What do YOU tweet about?

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